Federal Rules For Fracking

On 4 May 2012, the United States Department of Interior proposed a new requirement for oil and natural gas companies to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operations on federal and Native American lands. Additionally, the proposal calls for drilling companies to ensure that fluids used in oil and gas wells do not escape the wellbore. Oil and gas operators must also have in place a water management plan to handle fracking fluids, which flow back to the surface during oil and gas production. Fracking has brought about an abundant new source of fossil fuels that are benefiting U.S. industry. It also has generated growing complaints of contaminated ground- and surface waters from residents living near drilling sites. The U.S. chemical industry is profiting greatly from the flood of new natural gas. In a statement, the American Chemistry Council (ACC), a chemical industry trade association, notes that “appropriate regulations and policies” are critical to ensure continuation of “robust, responsible production.” The association urges the federal government to leave regulation of oil and gas drilling operations on federal lands to states. Gas and oil industry organisations generally echo ACC’s view, warning that federal regulation would duplicate what some dozen states are considering or, in a few cases, requiring. Community and environmental groups are also critical of the proposal, but for being too weak. They note that public disclosure of chemicals in fracking fluids would occur only after the well had been drilled and production had begun or possibly had been completed. Hydraulic fracturing involves forcing millions of gallons of water, fracking fluids, and sands under high pressure deep into shale rock geology to release oil and gas deposits. These fossil fuels, along with returning water, sand, and fracking fluids, then blast back to the surface and are captured during oil and gas production. No federal regulations currently address modern fracking operations, the department notes. The only drilling regulations in place are more than 30 years old and are based on technologies of the past. In all, 90,452 oil and gas wells were operating on federal land and last year 3,200 new wells were drilled on federal land, according to department figures.

Chemical & Engineering News, 9 May 2012 ;http://pubs.acs.org/cen/news ;